Nearby Nature School

COVID-19 Update — Please see our Health and Safety Policies for details on how we are keeping program participants and staff safe this fall. Modifications to these policies may need to happen as guidance from local, state, and national officials changes. Thanks for your patience during this challenging time. See also our Air Quality Monitoring Policies.

The Basics:

WHAT: School year adventure, play, nature, science, art, & gardening! New theme every month! Standards-based curriculum that complements in-school learning. (Coming soon: see applicable standards).

WHERE: Three outdoor locations: Alton Baker Park and Nearby Nature’s Learnscape, Hendricks Park, and Mount Pisgah Arboretum

WHO: Youth ages 4-5 (priority to children from the families of Essential Workers) and youth ages 6-10 (target audience children enrolled in Eugene 4J’s Online Academy, homeschoolers, or others not enrolled in traditional school), minimum of 5 and max 10 children per program, taught by experienced nature educators.

WHEN: Month-long sessions, half & full day options  (depending on the season), one or two days/week, current session November 16-December 18, next session January 18-February 12 (enrollments accepted on a rolling basis as space available).

HOW MUCH: $125-250/month members, $147.50-$295/month non-members. Scholarships available! Apply when you register online.* 

REGISTRATION and PAYMENT: When you enroll online, you will create an account and your registration information will be saved for future programs. Be sure to read our cancellation policy on this page below. Returning families — please review and update your online information yearly. 

*If registering online or paying a deposit in advance is not possible for you, or you would prefer to make a deposit to make a payment by check or in cash, please contact us to make arrangements.

WHAT PARENTS ARE SAYING: “In the pandemic, we’ve seen two different preschools close, and I’ve felt very uncomfortable sending my four year old to indoor childcare. After six months of no childcare, I was worried that my introverted kiddo might struggle with new teachers and kids but he LOVED Wonder Keepers from day one. When he heard he was going back another day, he literally jumped for joy. He keeps asking me when it’s a nature school day and has been so excited to return. Thank you, Nearby Nature!!!!” — Sarah, Wonder Keepers Mom

Program Options (choose one per child)

  • Wonder Keepers (ages 4-5) – Participants in each month-long session of this program will enjoy two half-days (September-December 2020 — Wednesday/Friday mornings) or one half day (January-February 2021 Wednesday afternoons) of nature discovery per week in the Learnscape and out in Alton Baker Park. Sensory adventures, cooperative activities, nature storytelling, garden exploration, Earth art, and free time in our outdoor play spaces will help young children develop a personal connection to the wonders of the natural world as well as social and independent exploring skills. (Note: Priority for enrollment goes to Essential Workers, see details below.)
  • Natural Neighbors (ages 6-10) – Participants in each month-long session of this program will enjoy two half-day adventures (September-December 2020 — Wednesday/Friday afternoons) or one half day adventure (January-February 2021) per week in Alton Baker Park and our Learnscape. Nature study tools and resources such as nets, magnifiers, cameras, iNaturalist, and art materials will help participants get to know their nearby animal and plant neighbors, create seasonal chapters for their own park nature guides, and deepen their personal connections to the amazing natural community we all call home. (Note: Kids can participate in both of our school-aged programs that are one day a week in Jan-Feb, but only one of our school-aged programs in months where class meets twice per week.)
  • Wild Outside (ages 6-10) – Participants in each month-long session of this program will enjoy either two half day adventures per week at Hendricks Park (September-December 2020 — Tuesdays-Thursdays) or one half day adventure (January-February 2021 Thursdays) or one full day adventure at Mount Pisgah Arboretum (September-November 2020). An emphasis on youth-led discovery, time for longer hikes, opportunities to dive deeper into favorite life science topics, and a daily dose of creative nature play will ensure that each program provides an educational as well as a healthy break from indoor learning projects. (Note: Kids can participate in both of our school-aged programs that are one day a week in Jan-Feb, but only one of our school-aged programs in months where class meets twice per week.)

Fall 2020 Dates and Themes (choose one, two, or three sessions)

  • Session 1: September 21-October 16

Down in the Dirt: Discover the wonders of the world beneath your feet! Investigate the soils that grow our gardens and fuel our forests, discover the secrets of nature’s FBI (fungus, bacteria, and invertebrates), go seed seeking, and check out the fall harvest through human and wild critter eyes.

  • Session 2: October 19-November 13

Spooky Species: Spiders and bats and owls, oh my! Get to know the creepy creatures who navigate the night, wander the woods, and crawl through the compost while we sleep. Explore habitats, follow food chains, and hunt for tracks and traces. 

  • Session 3: November 16-December 18 (no programs the week of Thanksgiving)

Tree Talk: Investigate the woods-wide-web of life in nature nearby! Discover how trees share resources and information as well as how forests get ready for winter. Find funky fungi, build forest forts, and collect cool cones. Celebrate falling leaves and trees that stay evergreen year round.

Winter 2021 Dates and Themes

  • Session 4: January 18-Feb 12

Winter Wild: Explore the winter wonderland of the Pacific Northwest! Solve migration mysteries, hunt for hibernators, and discover why it’s not easy being green in winter. Learn how to hide in plain sight, survive in the forest, and build shelters that keep us warm and dry!

Program Locations:

  • Wonder Keepers: Alton Baker Park and the Nearby Nature Learnscape
  • Wild Outside: Hendricks Park and Mount Pisgah Arboretum
  • Natural Neighbors: Alton Baker Park and the Nearby Nature Learnscape

Each location has its own unique environment to explore and learn about — from the Willamette riverside in Alton Baker Park, to the Oak Savanna at Mount Pisgah Arboretum, to the tall fir forest in Hendricks Park. All sites provide access to bathrooms, hand-washing facilities, drinking water, parking for drop-off and pick-up, and covered areas in case of inclement weather. All programs happen rain or shine.

Group Size and Ages

Enrollment is capped at 10-12 students per program. We love getting to know your kids! Your child will get lots of individual attention. Nearby Nature School programs serve kids in two different age groups — Pre-K (ages 4-5) and School-Aged (ages 6-10).

Experienced Instructors

Two staffers run each program — one lead staff instructor and a trained volunteer or assistant instructor. Staff instructors are experienced educators and volunteers have all participated in our program training sessions. All staff are First Aid/CPR certified and all staff and volunteers are background checked.

Fall 2020-Winter 2021 Program Costs and Important Notes

Programs Costs Fall 2020 September-December (Sessions 1-3):

  • Wonder Keepers — Meet Wednesday and Friday mornings (Alton Baker Park), 8:30 am-12:30pm, $250/month for members or $295/month for non-members
  • Natural Neighbors — Meet Wednesday and Friday afternoons, 12:30-4:30pm (Alton Baker Park), $250/month for members or $295/month for non-members
  • Wild Outside — Meet Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, 12:30-4:40 pm (Hendricks Park), or Thursdays (Mount Pisgah), 8:30am-4:30pm (Mount Pisgah in September and October only), $250/month for members or $295/month for non-members

Programs Costs Winter 2021 January-February (Session 4):

  • Wonder Keepers — Meets Wednesday afternoon, (Alton Baker Park), 12:30-4:30 pm, $125/month for members or $147.50/month for non-members
  • Wild Outside — Meets Thursday afternoon, 12:30-4:40 pm (Hendricks Park), $125/month for members or $147.50/month for non-members
  • Natural Neighbors — Meets Friday afternoon, 12:30-4:30pm (Alton Baker Park), $125/month for members or $147.50/month for non-members

Other Important Notes:

  • A minimum non-refundable deposit of $35 is required to hold your program space.
  • Full payment is due a week in advance. Payments can be made by credit card online or in person/by mail with check or cash.
  • The target audience for our Wild Outside and Natural Neighbors programs is children who are enrolled in Eugene Online Academy, homeschoolers, or others not enrolled in traditional school. Due to State of Oregon guidelines for this sort of programming, children may not enroll in more than one of these programs during any single session. Please choose only one Wild Outside or Natural Neighbors program if your child is 6-10 years old.
  • Because our Wonder Keepers preschool program is considered Emergency Childcare according to the Oregon Department of Education–Early Learning Division, priority for enrollment must go to the children of Essential Workers (first responders, emergency workers, health care professionals, critical operations staff or essential personnel, and individuals working outside the home). Although all are welcome to request enrollment at any time, priority for registration our January 2021 program will go to Essential Worker families through November 30th at 5 pm. We will contact you by 5 pm on December 1st to let you know the status of your enrollment and will reimburse your deposit (or add you to the waitlist if desired) if there is no available space for your child. Any additional open spots after December 1st will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. 

Flexible Drop-Off & Pick Up:

Due to COVID-19 health and safety concerns, and in order to avoid long check-in lines, we are encouraging families to take advantage of our flexible drop-off and pick-up times (included in your registration, no additional charge).

  • Morning Only Programs — Drop off your child any time between 8:30 am and 9 am and pick up between noon and 12:30 pm.
  • Afternoon Only Programs — Drop off your child any time between 12:30 pm and 1 pm and pick up between 4 pm and 4:30pm.
  • All Day Programs — Drop off your child any time between 8:30 am and 9 am and pick up between 4 pm and 4:30pm.

Membership Discount


Nearby Nature believes all children should have affordable access to outdoor adventures in nature nearby. Scholarship assistance is available for our programs at Alton Baker Park and Mount Pisgah through our Youth Scholarship Fund and at Hendricks Park thanks to the Friends of Hendricks Park. To apply, fill out the Scholarship section in our online registration form. (Note — If you decide to decline our scholarship offer, all but $10 of your deposit will be refunded.) Donations to the Scholarship Fund are also welcome!

Additional Information

Click on the following links for more information about our camps.

Cancellation Policy

All Nearby Nature registrations include a $35 non-refundable deposit. This deposit holds your space and helps cover the cost of enrolling your child and preparing for programs.

Nearby Nature hopes your fall goes as planned and you will not need to withdraw your child from any programs. We do understand, however, that sometimes cancellations are unavoidable. If you need to cancel a registration, please do so as far in advance as possible.

  • Cancellation by 6pm on Monday two weeks before your program = full refund minus the non-refundable $35 deposit ($10 for scholarship recipients).
  • Cancellation by 6pm on Monday one week before your program = 50% refund of camp tuition.
  • No refunds for cancellations after 6pm on Monday one week before your program.

Cancellation by us may happen if there is insufficient enrollment seven days prior to a program. You will be notified promptly and your full payment refunded. NEW: A prorated refund or program credit will also be offered if partial or full closure is unavoidable and permanent due to wildfire smoke.

Note: In case of a local, state, or nationally mandated COVID-19 cancellation of all programs, a prorated refund or program credit will be offered if closure is unavoidable and permanent.


Contact our Education Coordinator, Grace Chollar-Webb, at 541-687-9699, ext. 101 or email if you have any questions or problems with registration. Please leave a phone number with your voicemail or email if you are having registration problems so that we can solve these as quickly as possible. Thanks!